Thursday, December 21, 2017

Shut Up and Kiss Me by Christie Craig | Book Review

Shut Up and Kiss Me by Christie Craig
First Published: 2010
Adult, Romance
Welcome to Precious, Texas, where fistfights serve as dinner theater and fire ants rain from the sky. The locals are very friendly, if a bit eccentric. No pictures please, or you may find yourself a guest of the county morgue.
Photojournalist Shala Winters already had her hands full bringing tourism to this backward, podunk town, but her job just got tougher. Pictures can say a thousand words, and one of Shala's is screaming bloody murder. Now she has to entrust a macho, infuriating lawman with her life -- but she'll never trust him with her heart.
Trusted or not, Sky Gomez isn't about to let a killer get his hands on Shala's Nikon -- or any of her more comely assets, for that matter. Her mouth might move faster than a Piney Woods roadrunner, but all he can think about is how good it must taste...and how she'll never escape true love.
Sometimes, you get a book on Kindle because it's free, and you're not sure if you're going to like it--the cover is bland, or you've never heard of the author before--but you still read it. And end up really, really enjoying it. Shut Up and Kiss Me is one of those reads for me.

Now, the summary on GR is really misleading. Shut Up and Kiss Me doesn't follow one couple, but three. So I'm gonna recap that for a second.

The first story is Shala and Sky's. Shala is a photographer who comes to Precious, Texas to help boost tourism in an effort to save the town. But not everyone wants her there, and Sky, as the chief of police, agrees to look out for her just in case. Which is good, because someone would stop at nothing to get Shala's camera... Could she have, somewhere, at some point, inadvertently took a photo of something she shouldn't have?...

As far as main couples go I really liked these two. I found Shala to be easy to relate to; she was smart but cute, funny but (when she wants to be) flirty, and easily flustered but emotionally hardened by her difficult past. She fits really well with Sky, despite the rocky beginning, since he is a natural protector, strong in body and mind, but also vulnerable. And like her, he has a rough past that he rises above.  

And of course, they were also HOT together (side note: I'm curious where the steamy parts would rank if I read this now, as a far more... ahem... seasoned... romance reader...).

The second story is Redfoot's, Sky's adoptive father, who has a relationship with his neighbor. Only she wants them to keep it a secret. Tension builds and the question becomes not should they come out to their families, but can they even remain together?... 

I did love Redfoot. He was a lot of fun to read of, while simultaneously dishing some elderly wisdom to everyone else. And his story was quite unique since old people don't get love stories often, which is a shame really. Life and love don't end at 40, nor do physical needs just... disappear completely.

And the third story is that of Maria, Sky's adoptive sister. Maria is dating Matt, but she suspects he might be cheating on her. It's just her luck that amidst this inner turmoil returns Jose, her adoptive brother, and past flame. Maria has things she has to tell both men if she ever wants to move on with her life and relationships. But can she bring herself to do it?...

Maria's storyline wasn't my favorite by a long shot. She didn't really leave much of an impression on me, for better or worse. She was just... there. Ditto on Jose and Matt, who each received the personality depth of a log. Jose was comic relief. Matt was the sweet boyfriend. This is where their traits end, really. I feel like Craig could've done a lot more with these people, if I were honest. As it stands, I kind of feel like you could cut the whole thing and the novel wouldn't be worse off. 

Craigs seems to specialize mostly in slapstick, and while I am not the biggest fan of that type of humor, other parts of the story covered for it; there were a lot of genuinely funny moments that required no manhood to be bitten by fire ants, a lot of cute, enough steam, and even some heart-wrenching moments, all wrapped up on witty dialogue and character chemistry.

Although, I will definitely admit that the whole hitman subplot was subpar. It was loosely used to bring Shala and Sky together and then barely utilized, with the few bits surrounding it lacking in action and excitement.

My other big critique is that the ending of the novel kind of promises a continuation, yet it doesn't appear like we're ever going to get one. At this point, I probably won't read it even if it came out (it's been five years and I can barely remember this one), but still... sucks for everyone who loves this novel.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

To Kill a Warlock by H.P. Mallory | Rant Review

To Kill a Warlock by H.P. Mallory
First Published: 2010
Adult, Urban Fantasy
The murder of a dark arts warlock. A shape-shifting, ravenous creature on the loose. A devilishly handsome stranger sent to investigate. Sometimes working law enforcement for the Netherworld is a real bitch.
Dulcie O’Neil is a fairy. And not the type to frolic in gardens. She’s a Regulator—a law-enforcement agent who monitors the creatures of the Netherworld to keep them from wreaking havoc in the mortal world. When a warlock is murdered and Dulcie was the last person to see him alive, she must uncover the truth before she’s either deported back to the Netherworld, or she becomes the next victim.
Enter Knight Vander, a sinfully attractive investigator sent from the Netherworld to work the case with Dulcie. Between battling her attraction to her self-appointed partner, keeping a sadomasochistic demon in check, and fending off the advances of a sexy and powerful vampire, Dulcie’s got her hands full. As the body count increases, Dulcie finds herself battling dark magic, reconnoitering in S&M clubs and suffering the greatest of all betrayals.
You know those books that make you scratch your head at all the reviews and high ratings they have and wonder if you've read the same book? Perhaps someone trolled you and gave you a fake copy? Because there is no way all these people love this book if they read the same version you did? Yeah... this is one of those books.

When I got this book I was extremely excited - I had seen how highly rated Mallory's books came, and I was on an urban fantasy kind of kick so she was definitely on my authors-to-read list. And I was doubly excited to have the opportunity to read one of her books for free on kindle. I distinctively remember the squeal I let out, even now, five years later.

Unfortunately, all those fuzzy feelings died a quick death. May they rest in peace.

I simply couldn't stand the writing. I wish I could tell you what it was about it that gave me such a visceral reaction; the kind of response that makes you wince and grit your teeth and hope the torture would be over soon. Rare is the book that makes me feel this way, so in its own way, this read was very special to me.

Not to mention, this book had a lot of repetitions. That's a particular pet peeve of mine. And you know how sometimes when you're in a group and someone laughs at his own joke and everyone just stares at him because it wasn't all that funny and he says "get it? get it?". Well... that's how I felt about all the parts in this book that were obviously meant to make me laugh. They didn't.

Maybe if the characters were compelling the story would've been saved for me, but they simply weren't. I didn't like Dulcie's character at all. She is frankly quite the slut. I'm definitely okay with characters sleeping around when they're not in a relationship and women being secure in their sexuality, but I draw the line at leading several men on. At the same time. It just grates on my nerves. You can do all those things without hurting others in the process.

I mean, the book literally ends with several loose ends--and at least three guys--open and unanswered, with Dulcie having two upcoming dates (with two different guys) and receiving a cute present from a third. (On a completely unrelated note - Knight is an incredibly stupid name for a character, and should be reserved to comic books if at all...)

And the bad guy was so obvious I simply had to sigh when he was revealed. I kind of had some hope Mallory will pull the rug from under my feet or something and at least give me a good twist or two. But nope.

During the entire time I was reading this book, the question "why the heck am I reading this book?" kept popping into my mind, flashing in colorful, glaring lights, demanding some sort of answer from me. Since I had none, I didn't give it any. If it was Present Me who was reading this novel, I would have DNFed it at around 20% if I were nice, but Past Me was a little more particular about dropping books, so she used all the willpower she had to finish it as quickly as she could so she could move on to greener pastures...

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Dancing With the Devil by Keri Arthur | Rant Review [Spoilers]

Dancing With the Devil by Keri Arthur
First Published: 2008
Adult, Fantasy
Private Investigator Nikki James grew up on the tough streets of Lyndhurst and believes there's nothing left to surprise her. All that changes the night she follows teenager Monica Trevgard into the shadows-and becomes a pawn caught in a war between two very different men. One fills her mind with his madness, the other pushes his way into her life-and her heart. Nikki knows how dangerous love can be, but if she wants to survive, she must place her trust in a man who could easily destroy her.
Michael Kelly has come to Lyndhurst determined to end the war between himself and another brother of the night. For 300 years he has existed in life's shadows, gradually learning to control the life from death cravings of a vampire. Nikki not only breaches his formidable barriers with her psychic abilities, but makes Michael believe he may finally have found a woman strong enough to walk by his side and ease the loneliness in his heart. But will his love be enough to protect her from a madman hell-bent on revenge? Or will it drive her into his enemy's deadly trap?
Only together can they overcome the evil threatening to destroy them both. But the secrets they keep from each other might prove to be the greatest threat of all.
Good God this book was boring.
Seriously, I did not expect this. The "heroes" kept getting into traps, nearly dying, failing and in pain. Rinse and repeat. It got old real quick. Even scenes one would normally classify as action scenes were dull and dry without an ounce of soul.

And let's just take a second to lament how dumb someone has to be to fall into traps over and over and over again. At a certain point, couldn't you try to put a trap of your own? Or do something, anything, to counter attack?? Seriously, it's been 5 years since I read this book and I am still angry about it...

Now, on top of all this, a lot of parts made absolutely no freaking sense. Michael, who is the male protagonist, literally found the whereabouts of villainous-dude Jasper about half a dozen times throughout the book. But then, those scenes ended in fade-to-blacks paired with some inane notion like "it's time for the hunter to become the hunted"... which never played out. The next time we see our "heroes", nothing has changed and Jasper is still at large. Why is this even in the story?

Then, there was the Case of the Vanishing Injuries. These guys... they get hurt. Often. Like, hit by a car kind of hurt. And then... it's mentioned maybe once, and is forgotten until the next time they get injured. That's not how these things work, book!

But at the end of the day, it was the characters that made this book suck ass. More specifically... it was Nikki. I disliked how scared she was, all the time. It's human to be afraid, but having that be your one single emotion is just frustrating. But I could deal with that. I could even kind-of-maybe-sort-of deal with her utter uselessness, even though it's one of my pet peeves in books, especially when the girl is so heavily gifted. Like, you've got everything working for you to be a key character in the story, and instead, you are just a damsel in distress.

But I only started actually hating her later in the story. On the one hand, she did not want Michael to go and on the other she was so darn annoying, refusing to trust him because of something someone else did, being anti-vampires in general, accusing Michael of dumb things and just looking for something wrong about him. And then, when he does leave, she regrets it. Girl, you deserve to have your ass deserted and left to fend for yourself. Yes, you will die within a minute because you are that useless but at this point, I don't even give a fuck.

Now, clearly, considering the former paragraph... I wasn't a huge fan of the romance. It wasn't very believable, at any case. I have no idea why this two fell for each other. I mean, why would anyone fall for Nikki??? And naturally, the "I love you"s came out of nowhere. Because that's the kind of novel this is...

One of the most disappointing things about this novel was actually the writing. I had been excited to read a Keri Arthur novel when I picked this up. I heard a lot about them, after all. Sadly, I was very underwhelmed by it. There was just nothing about it, and as I said before - boring as hell.

Okay, wait, time for a positive thing about this novel!... It ended and I was able to move on to better reads. LOL. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr | Book Review

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
First Published: 2007
Young Adult, Fantasy
Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries.
Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty - especially if they learn of her Sight - and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.
Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries.
Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.
Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention.
But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King, who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost — regardless of her plans or desires.
Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; her life; everything.
Faery intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr's stunning twenty-first-century faery tale.
Wicked Lovely is one of those novels I need to re-read ASAP and continue with the series, because I read this one back in 2012, and has owned it for years before that, and while I remember really enjoying this dark fairy-tale I don't remember enough to be able to move on to book two without the re-read.

It's interesting how strongly I remember liking it, when I had an extremely hard time getting into it at first. I started this book three times before finally moving past chapter three. There was just... something there that wasn't clicking at first. This book is lucky that back then I was far more stubborn about leaving books unfinished, because had it happened today I would've never went back to it. Three strikes and you're out and all that jazz. But, that wasn't the case, and I did go back to it. And then scratched my head wondering why on earth did I have so much trouble with it to begin with?

The world Marr creates in Wicked Lovely was breathtaking and beautiful... despite the ugliness of it, if that makes any sense. It's unique and extraordinary. When I think of that looming re-read (I am going to do that sometime in 2018), the thing I am most excited about is re-familiarizing myself with this world.

And in that world exists Aislinn. No idea if I'm pronouncing that one correctly. Aislinn is a normal teenage girl with slightly... unusual... worries. And by "unusual", I mean of the supernatural verity. Specifically, faeries. Even more specifically; seeing faeries. That's not supposed to happen. Honestly, I don't remember much of this character, and my old review speaks of the fact nothing of her really caught my attention since I just said: "I liked her". That doesn't mean I didn't like her, only that I really need that re-read if I want to recall anything about this main character lol.

Seth is Ash's best friend and the only one she feels safe around. Boy, did I adore this guy. He is sweet, caring and protective. And he does all that while looking like a badass in piercings (which are not really my thing, but when a nice guy wears them I'm okay with it haha).

Donia is The Winter Girl, and parts of the story are told of her POV. She is one of the faeries stalking Ash and I remember really liking her and loving watching the story through her eyes.

Keenan is the other fairy stalking Ash, and this is one character I was just kind of... meh about. I didn't hate him, but then I didn't like him. Like Donia, parts of the story are told from his POV.

Now, the main romance in the novel is between Ash and Seth. And it is one sexy romance! I was honestly so happy both with the fact that there wasn't really a love triangle AND that Seth is the romantic interest because this book made me believe he and Ash belong together! And afraid to read the next books because what if Marr does something to my babies??? 

Another relationship explored in the book is the one between Keenan and Donia. That was intriguing and still full of possibilities...

All of these things accumulate to the ending, which was a mixed bag for me. Some things were darn right underwhelming, considering all the hype the story builds around them. And some things were extremely shocking and subverted any expectation I had! And that makes me very curious to read the next books, even if it seems otherwise considering the 5 years hiatus I put this series on...